Yemeni officials say at least 23 al-Qaida-linked militants have been killed in fighting in the country's south.

The confrontations come during Yemen's campaign to retake parts of the south from al-Qaida following a year of internal turmoil.

Military officials say al-Qaida militants tried to storm a small town north of the group's stronghold of Jaar in Abyan province on Thursday. Armed civilians along with soldiers backed by artillery fought off the al-Qaida militants, officials said. At least 20 were killed in the battle

Also in the south, warplanes bombed a vehicle suspected to belong to al-Qaida on the road between Jaar and another al-Qaida stronghold — Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan, killing three militants.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.